Monday, 31 December 2012

Why are teacher recommendations at the transition from primary to secondary education socially biased? A mixed-methods research

an article by Simon Boone and Mieke Van Houtte (Ghent University, Belgium) published in British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 34 Issue 1 (January 2013)


The consequences of educational differentiation have been at the centre of research in sociology of education during the past decades.

Processes of educational allocation have, however, received much less attention.

Despite the fact that research has shown that teacher recommendations in France and Germany are partly determined by pupils’ social background, studies that inquire into the causes of this social bias seem to be virtually inexistent.

This study aims to examine whether teacher recommendations at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders (northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) are also socially biased, and if so what causes these differentials in advice, using a mixed-methods design.

We found the advice given by primary school teachers to be partly determined by pupils’ social background. Analysis of the qualitative data suggests that teachers tend to evaluate pupils from low socio-economic status backgrounds less positively, due to their emphasis on specific pupil characteristics.

Growing Pains: How to restore economic growth and rebalance the UK economy

A paper by Glyn Gaskarth published by Civitas  (December 2012)

Executive Summary

The UK growth review does not fully address the structural problems the UK economy faces. Both the Growth Review and the Trade and Investment White Paper prioritize measures which directly harm UK growth and exports. Diplomatically supporting Less Developed Countries (LDCs) defence of their domestic protectionism restricts the market for British goods in those countries. Environmental measures such as the soon to be introduced carbon price floor make energy more expensive for UK firms and export UK jobs to countries which often have much lower environmental standards. The retention of the anti bribery rules make it very difficult for UK firms to trade in high growth emerging markets many of which have very high levels of domestic corruption.

Attempts to reduce regulation exist more in rhetoric than in practice. Rules such as the one in one out rule for new regulation are not universally enforced. Additional business costs are being imposed by the coalition government. Efforts to increase UK airport capacity are being blocked. Energy policy is not delivering sufficient capacity to meet projected demand. The benchmarks in the Growth Review seem to be set deliberately low and/or general so that they may be easily achieved. The Government gives the impression that deficit reduction alone will solve the UK’s problems, it will not. Britain needs to develop a clear plan which does not affect the rate of reduction in UK public expenditure but does increase the long term growth rate of the UK economy. To discover how we looked at proposals made by fourteen groups from across the political spectrum.

The Confederation of British Industry proposes making equity finance tax deductable, establishing an aggregation platform for small businesses to raise bond finance and introducing a National Exports Strategy with an export enabling test for all regulation. The Federation of Small Businesses urge the government to bypass the existing banks, create a Post Bank to lend to local businesses and introduce a Community Reinvestment Act to direct bank funding to poorer communities. UNITE and UNISON urge a clamp down on tax avoidance and the introduction of a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions to end public spending reductions and provide financial assistance to repair the balance sheets of indebted households. Reform advocate reductions in health and welfare expenditure and a broadening of the tax base to fund tax simplification and reduction.

The British Chambers of Commerce proposes a long term manufacturing strategy for the UK, the formation of a British Business Bank and a government procurement strategy which recognizes the costs of UK regulation when selecting government suppliers. Policy Exchange want increases in the ISA allowance to encourage private investors to invest in small firms debt, the abolition of national pay bargaining to increase public sector efficiency and planning reform to allow the construction of new ‘Garden Cities.’ The Institute of Public Policy Research seeks to increase aggregate demand and the long term growth potential of the economy by increasing quantitative easing and additional infrastructure spending funded by tax increases such as a mansion tax. NESTA in cooperation with he Work Foundation identify six barriers to growth that potential high growth firms and existing high growth firms say need to be overcome to convert more of the former into the latter.

The Social Market Foundation believe the government should increase the efficiency of public spending and boost demand by spending less on items with a low fiscal multiplier such as the winter fuel allowance and more on items with a high fiscal multiplier such as infrastructure investment. The Centre for Policy Studies advocate measures to increase house building, which helped Britain’s economy perform well in the 1930’s, suspending the National Minimum Wage for under 21-year-olds to tackle youth unemployment and more rapid increases in the personal tax free allowance.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Institute of Directors urge the adoption of a programme of tax reduction and simplification by introducing spending targeting to reduce public expenditure, which would fund the abolition of eight taxes, the merger of national insurance and income tax and the greater localization of taxation and expenditure to increase public sector efficiency. The IMF supports the targeting of funds to the most indebted households to help them to repair their balance sheets and resume consumption levels. The OECD propose structural reforms including reducing welfare payments, controlling health expenditure, reforming planning regulations and targeting resources at improving the education of the poorest to reduce education inequality in the UK. Civitas recommend a British industrial policy to aid British firms to develop comparative advantages in the marketplace and to build a stronger UK manufacturing sector.

To ascertain how other countries are dealing with the Great Recession I chose three countries which have each returned to economic growth. The United States has experienced high productivity growth and more rapid bank deleveraging than similarly indebted states. German labour market reform and industrial policy are analyzed to consider how this nation has increased its proportion of world exports while the UK’s has declined. Israeli success at innovation is considered to identify how that small country became a world leader in ICT with greater Venture Capital Investment per capita than America and more countries on the NASDAQ than the whole of Europe combined. Each of these case studies helped inform the fifteen proposals I have identified for immediate adoption by the Government which are listed below.
  1. The UK should not exceed international regulatory standards unless the enhanced UK regulation can be shown to not damage UK economic growth. This rule should apply not merely to the scope of the regulation but also to whether competitor nations are effectively enforcing the rules they have signed up to. Areas requiring immediate reform include:
    • The Bribery Laws which should be amended to exclude application to countries not in the OECD.
    • Bank capital requirements which should be reduced to the internationally agreed standards to allow more lending.
    • The Carbon Price Floor which should not be introduced.
  2. Cease UK diplomatic support for trade protectionism against UK goods by Less Developed Countries and push for full market access as a condition of opening the EU market to these countries.
  3. Cease the subsidy for green industry and develop a comprehensive energy policy to exploit the UK potential in shale gas.
  4. A British Business Bank should be launched using the funds from the Green Investment Bank, which should be abolished, and the sale of shares in UK state owned banks. This new entity should be given the explicit function of providing funds to small and medium sized enterprises denied access to private bank finance with private institutions being given the right of first refusal.
  5. International development aid should be eliminated and the funds used to endow a UK infrastructure bank with a set charter instructing it to finance enhancements in UK road, rail and energy infrastructure.
  6. Spending targeting should be adopted in addition to targets relating to the debt to GDP ratio and the elimination of the structural deficit to enhance the government’s deficit cutting credentials and ensure the UK government deficit is reduced on schedule.
  7. Merge Income Tax, Employers National Insurance and Employees National Insurance into a single tax rate for all workers under 65 before 2015 to simplify the personal taxation system.
  8. The one-in-one-out rule should be increased to a one-in-two-out rule and extended to cover all UK regulation with no exemptions and enforcement of the rule by all departments should be subject to an annual statement before Parliament with a new system of fines being applied to departments which do not implement the policy in full.
  9. End the opposition to Heathrow expansion, allow the construction of an additional runway and work with private operators to expand the number of flights to emerging markets arriving in London and the regional airports.
  10. Cancel High Speed rail and divert a proportion of this funding to improve the existing rail commuter links into our major cities, widen platforms, increase the number of carriages and cap fare increases and a proportion to make up the funding for a UK infrastructure bank taken from the Green Investment Bank which itself was raised by the sale of High Speed rail licences.
  11. Privatise the existing UK Motorway Network and introduce a toll based system combined with the elimination of fuel duty and road tax. Use the funds raised through privatization to further reduce UK indebtedness and the income raised from taxing the new private entity to allow for the maintenance of the local road network.
  12. Introduce a triple lock for welfare payments pledging to increase them by the lower of three indicators, inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent until 2015 (excluding those on disability benefit). Earmark any savings to reduce the basic rate of income tax to increase work incentives for poorer citizens.
  13. Regionalise the national minimum wage to ensure the incentive to work is maintained in areas where private sector wages are low and match this with full implementation of the governments cap on immigration into the UK to reduce the competition these low wage workers face.
  14. Reform the planning system to provide cash incentives to households affected by development to back construction, increase the thresholds those wishing to block planning applications must exceed and introduce reviews of the planning burdens imposed by each local authority with financial penalties for those which do not reduce regulatory costs.
  15. Review the UK’s association with the European Union and negotiate the repatriation of powers to decide UK employment and social policies or withdraw from the EU.

In November 2010 Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable initiated a Growth Review to increase UK economic growth. The background was not fortuitous. The government deficit, the difference between tax revenues and public expenditure in the fiscal year, was 11 per cent of GDP in 2009-10.1 Government was borrowing one pound in every four it spent.2 Government debt, the sum total of present and past borrowings not yet repaid and accumulated interest, was set to increase to 74.4 per cent of GDP by 2014-15 from 44 per cent of GDP in 2008-09.3 Increasing the rate of UK economic growth offered the coalition a less painful means of adjustment, possibly reducing the amount of cuts to public expenditure and increases in taxation necessary to balance the budget.

Two years after the Growth Review began UK economic output remains around 3 per cent below its peak and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research do not predict it will surpass the 2008 level of economic output until 2014.4 The Government deficit has been reduced by a quarter, mainly through tax increases and reductions in capital expenditure. The deadline to eliminate the structural deficit, the gap between tax revenues and spending that will not be addressed by a return to trend rate economic growth, has been postponed from 2014-15 to 2016-17. Plans to stop Government debt still rising as a share of GDP by the end of the Parliament are in danger. Reductions in Government consumption spending have barely begun. They will need to be deeper and last longer than originally forecast. The deficit reduction plan is essential but it alone is not enough to restore the UK to economic health.

Excuses can be made for the current economic woes. The previous government badly mismanaged the economy. In 2010 the IMF estimated the UK had the highest structural deficit in the OECD.5 Britain entered the crisis with a high structural deficit, recently revised up, of 5.2 per cent of GDP in 2007/08.6 The opposition Labour party is vocal in opposing each proposed reduction in government expenditure but more quiet on how they would close the deficit without matching reductions in public expenditure or further increasing taxes. The Eurozone is the UK’s major export market and its continued stagnation will affect UK growth in the short term. The IMF note that “economies with the strongest trade ties to Europe have generally seen the largest downgrades” but the British public expects economic growth to resume.7 The coalition did not create this economic crisis. They now own it. We need a proper roadmap for economic growth rather than excuses for continued hardship.

1 HM Treasury, Budget 2010, Budget Report: Deficit Reduction: Rebalancing the UK economy, P8.
2 HM Treasury, Key Spending Review Announcements
3 HM Treasury, Budget 2010, June 2010
4 National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Estimates of Monthly GDP, 9 October 2012
5 HM Treasury, Budget 2010, P9
6 The Telegraph, Labour ran a structural deficit in 2007, 25 October 2012
7 IMF, World Economic Outlook, April 2012: Growth Resuming, Dangers Remain, P49

Full text (PDF 122pp)

The Neighborhood Strikes Back: Community Murals by Youth in Boston's Communities of Color

an article by Tim Sieber (University of Massachusetts Boston) and Graça Índias Cordeiro and Lígia Ferro (ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute, Portugal) published in City & Society Volume 24 Issue 3 (December 2012)


Community murals in US inner city neighbourhoods offer popular, grass-roots representations of local identities and their relation to urban space and community culture.

They are powerful tools in building neighbourhood solidarity across ethnic groups, generations, and defended gang territories. Designed primarily for local consumption, murals circulate dramatic, alternative representations of local identity, heritage and history, contesting attributions of stigma and danger promulgated in mainstream media.

In Boston’s Dudley Street corridor that crosscuts its Roxbury and Dorchester neighbourhoods, both low-income communities of colour, these themes are evident in the presence of a vibrant series of community murals lining the one-mile-long street.

Designed and painted by local youth under the sponsorship of grass-roots community-based organisations, the murals give voice to urban youth’s hopes, struggles, and aspirations for their individual and collective futures, from their positions in disadvantaged, multi-ethnic neighbourhoods in a city sharply divided by race and class.

Exploring the career construction interview for vocational personality assessment

an article by Susan R. Barclay and Lori A. Wolff (The University of Mississippi, USA) published in Journal of Vocational Behavior Volume 81 Issue 3 (December 2012)


This mixed-methods study explored the validity and usefulness of the Career Construction Interview (CCI) with college students (n = 83) from a midsize Southern university.

Using Pearson’s r correlations, comparisons were made between the three-letter RIASEC Strong Interest Inventory (SII) theme code and RIASEC theme codes derived from coding the CCI narratives of the participants.

Results indicated moderate correlation between the CCI and SII participant results.


► We ascertain whether coders can develop RIASEC theme codes from narrative CSI question responses.
► We explore validity of the CSI, comparing coded results to Strong Interest Inventory (SII) results.
► Intraclass correlations indicate strong interrater reliability.
► Overall moderate correlation exists between CSI and SII participant results.

A Consumer’s Guide to Career Counseling

via career(s) information/guidance

by Tony Lee

The advice provided by PennEnergy is US-centric but could still prove useful to individuals seeking career advice and guidance in the UK.

Whether you’re just changing jobs or shifting careers, if you’re confident in your skills and direction, you’ll probably need minimum help, say career counsellors.

Read the full article here

Unions, learning, migrant workers and union revitalization in Britain

an article by Stephen Mustchin (University of Manchester, UK) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 6 (December 2012)


This article focuses on strategies adopted by British trade unions to promote education to their members and their impact on attempts to organise among migrant workers.

The relationship between this activity and broader debates around union revitalisation is analysed, particularly in terms of how union involvement in learning intersects with broader organising and community focused union activity. A diverse range of approaches to education provision for migrant workers can be identified from this research.

The influence of internal union politics on attempts to organize migrant workers, work in conjunction with state policy and improve access to education among their members is also analysed.

The study highlights a diverse range of outcomes, raising important issues regarding union organising strategies and their relationship to union provision of education for their memberships.

Lone parents, poverty and policy in the European Union

an article by Yekaterina Chzhen (University of Oxford, UK) and Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York, UK) published in Journal of European Social Policy volume 22 Number 5 (December 2012)


Although there is considerable research evidence to show that children in lone-parent families are at increased risk of poverty, there have been few comparative analyses of lone parents in Europe.

Using the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) 2009, this paper compares the prevalence and characteristics of lone-parent families, analyses the poverty and deprivation risks of children, and evaluates the potential impact of social transfer income packages on child poverty reduction.

We use the unique personal identifiers of mothers, fathers and partners to define lone-parent families with greater precision. Using a multi-level framework, we find lower child poverty rates in countries with more generous social transfers, even after controlling for the country standard of living.

A reverse pattern is observed for material deprivation: the negative effect of social transfer income washes out when the GDP per capita is controlled for, which itself has a negative and significant effect on material deprivation.

Happy New Year's Eve (and a happy birthday to my brother)

Tree House: 1923
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Tree House: 1923
Washington, D.C., 1923
All it says here is “Dept. of Agriculture”
Back when the place was run by the Keebler Elves
National Photo Company
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The perplexing case of the Poles and Nazis. Polish gentiles say they helped their Jewish neighbours. The evidence says otherwise... more

Circle Limit III animation
via Newton Excel Bach, not (just) an Excel Blog by dougaj4
And papers by the artist on how to do it are available at:
Comments and more links from PM2Ring:
  1. That image is an example of a tessellation of the hyperbolic plane, in the Poincaré disc projection. Escher learned about this stuff from H. S. M. Coxeter, probably the greatest geometer of the 20th century.
  2. Hyperbolic geometry is fun. And it’s much easier to create regular & semi-regular tessellations in the hyperbolic plane than in the Euclidean plane. John Baez discussed this topic a little while ago: Archimedean Tilings and Egyptian Fractions [some gorgeous images].
  3. Modern Dutch graphic artist Jos Leys has done some nice work with hyperbolic tessellations:
    In 2D:
    In 3D:
  4. Also see images by PM2Ring from and early post in this blog:
Psychedelic, Surreal Close-Ups of Bubbles
via Flavorwire by Marina Galperina
London-based photographer Jason Tozer makes the surfaces of soap bubbles appear as prismatic landscapes, surreal giant orbs, and distant planets. How? It’s not magic. It’s a Hasselblad, a 135mm lens, and a lot of patience. Using a special lightning and composing technique of an illuminating perspex dome and a straw for gentle swirling action, Tozer creates psychedelic little planetary worlds that are beautiful but ephemeral – gone not with a bang, but a muted pop.
Spotted by Colossal, check ’em out in the slideshow, but shh. Shh. Gently, now.
Photographer Jason Tozer Turns Soap Bubbles into Mysterious, Colorful Planets planets macro bubbles

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Crises force us back to first principles. This is a moment for political philosophy, a moment for one of its most intelligent practitioners, Alan Ryan... more

Plan to Catalogue All of UK’s (Indoor) Public Sculpture
via LJ INFOdocket by Gary Price
From The Art Newspaper:
After its project to record the UK's 210,000 oil paintings in public collections, the Public Catalogue Foundation is now turning to sculpture.
By Martin Bailey: Web only
The plan is to produce the first illustrated database of sculptures in galleries and public buildings. No other country has attempted this. Andrew Ellis, the director of the foundation, estimates that there will be about 70,000 sculptures to cover. He wants to deal with those that are kept inside buildings, rather than in the open air (outdoor works are currently being recorded by the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association). Antiquities would also be excluded, so the foundation’s catalogue might begin with the medieval period. Work by both British and foreign sculptors would be covered.
Continue reading

1943 : Consumer Instruction Sheet – War Ration Book Two
via Retronaut by Ca McN

Full size here together with page two.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Reading is a physical act. Touching the page helps us to feel the words, to learn to feel ourselves. Can we hold digital texts in the same way?... more

10 Literary Parodies That Work
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
Well, at least there’s one decidedly delicious thing to have come out of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. Quite literally delicious: this week sees the release of 50 Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook, which details the sordid adventures of a young, inexperienced chicken as she gets her breasts and thighs handled by a chef – while serving up some excellent recipes for roasting chicken as well. It’s enough to make you snort that cooking wine right out of your nose. Inspired by this new and hilarious release, we’ve put together a list of ten literary parodies that totally work on their own merit – no mere joke books these.
Click through to see which we chose, and if we missed your favourite parody, be sure to add it to our list in the comments.

Bored of the Rings, Harvard Lampoon [unavailable on the Book Depository this link is to a used copy on Abe Books]
I love the real thing but this is ... awesome!
Oh yes. In this ludicrous send-up of Tolkien’s epic fantasy series, Frito Bugger is sent by his uncle Dildo Bugger and con artist/stage magician Goodgulf Greyteeth on a mission to steal the Ring of Power – along with Arrowroot, Legolam, Gimlet, Moxie, and Pepsi, of course. The gents of Harvard Lampoon twist all the characters you know and love to their own off-colour means, sending them trotting off down the path and mocking everything they meet along the way. The brilliance is that somewhere in there, the story takes on its own meat and becomes more than just a punny blow-by-blow, but a (raunchy, irreverent) story in its own right. A must for fans and decided non-fans alike.

Isaac Asimov The Foundation Trilogy (in 8 parts)
1. Foundations
2. Foundation and Empire
3. Second Foundation
The Foundation Trilogy is an epic science fiction series written over a span of forty-four years by Isaac Asimov. It consists of seven volumes that are closely linked to each other, although they can be read separately. The series is highly acclaimed, winning the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966.
The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept devised by Asimov and his editor John W. Campbell. Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire.
It works on the principle that the behaviour of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy). The larger the mass, the more predictable is the future. Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises. To shorten the period of barbarism, he creates two Foundations, small, secluded havens of art, science, and other advanced knowledge, on opposite ends of the galaxy.
The focus of the trilogy is on the Foundation of the planet Terminus. The people living there are working on an all-encompassing Encyclopaedia, and are unaware of Seldon’s real intentions (for if they were, the variables would become too uncontrolled). The Encyclopaedia serves to preserve knowledge of the physical sciences after the collapse. The Foundation’s location is chosen so that it acts as the focal point for the next empire in another thousand years (rather than the projected thirty thousand).
Access the files here on the Internet Archive.
And if I had not lost the name of the person/organisation where I read this I would put an acknowledgement in.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Another week to go on this trivia marathon

Artillery Rush
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
This game pits you against an enemy army as you work to either defend or invade based on your choice of army.
Will your cannon’s aim be true as you seek to take out the enemy forces or will your campaign end in defeat?
And will you need the help of Asian Angel’s walk-through or will you take a chance and go straight into the game?

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Tales from Odessa. The city’s literary brilliance – Babel, Pushkin – lives on in a run-down museum founded by an ex-KGB officer... more

Amiens Cathedral: France 1903
via Retronaut by Freifrau Fitz
View full size

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain* is a fascinating and occasionally hilarious guide written for GIs headed to Britain – then half-ruined by war – in 1942.
Subjects range from common-sense basics (“instead of railroads, automobiles, and radios, the British will talk about railways, motor-cars, and wireless”) to subtle social pitfalls regarding race, sex and income.
You can read it online for free; following are some choice excerpts.
The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.
The British are often more reserved in conduct than we. On a small crowded island where forty-five million people live, each man learns to guard his privacy carefully – and is equally careful not to invade another man’s privacy.
If you are invited to eat with a family don’t eat too much. Otherwise you may eat up their weekly rations.
The British are used to this [monetary] system and they like it, and all your arguments that the American decimal system is better won’t convince them. 
*Reprinted in 2004 the Boing Boing link was to Amazon (which I am trying very hard to avoid) so I found it in the Bodleian Bookshop!!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Engineering evil. It is an enduring shibboleth that science and technology are amoral. Consider Albert Speer, who may not seem relevant today. Unfortunately, he is... more

Slate’s “The Vault” is a great, new history blog
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Rebecca Onion is the curator at a new Slate blog that showcases nifty finds from America’s historical archives. So far, she’s got a photo of the be-loinclothed winner of a eugenics-inspired Better Baby Contest; a breakup letter written by Abraham Lincoln; and this specimen of 1950s-style STEM recruitment toys for girls.
What’s interesting about this chemistry set is that you can’t really say it’s more or less sexist than the types of science kits you see marketed heavily to girls today. Sure, it’s in a pink box and heavily insinuates that the best job a woman can hope for in science is as somebody’s assistant. But, on the other hand, it’s apparently the exact same chemistry set sold to boys, just with different packaging. Whereas today, pink-colored science kits trend heavily toward “girl” things, like teaching you how to make your own scented soaps – but at least you’re in charge of the soap-making lab.
Read all about it at The Vault

Dream Homes Built for Books and the Nerds Who Love Them
via Flavorwire by Alison Nastasi
Barbie has a dream house, and it seems only fair that book nerds should have one too. When we saw a beautiful, four-storey home on Gizmodo that was designed entirely around a giant bookcase, we fell in love.
We feature more photos of the bibliofiend’s fantasy palace after the break, along with other amazing houses that take bookcases to the extreme. The designers of these abodes honoured the owners’ love of literature by making each home’s central concept and prominent architectural component a huge, built-in library. Several of these bookcases take over the entire house.
Are you swooning yet?
Click through our gallery for more
Not for “more” but for all of them. I’ve been up and down the images and have failed utterly to choose a favourite!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Skull clamps and scrotum calipers. Harvard scholars poked and prodded students to learn the secrets of a successful life. What did they find?... more

Two very good dogs teach you chemistry
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Paige the border collie can load the washing machine, pick up trash, and make toaster waffles (although
you probably don't want to eat them afterwards).
And, with the help of her colleague Dexter – and their owner/trainer, who is also a chemist – Paige can even teach chemistry.

Here, Paige and Dexter serve as models for a discussion about chemical bonds – the forces that attract one atom to another and form the basis of all the chemicals that make up our world.
Via Matthew Hartings

Why do trees fall over in a storm?
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

West Philly Storm – Trees Down, 
a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kwbridg’'s photostream
The more accurate version of this question would really be something like, “Why do some trees fall over in a storm while others stay standing?” The answer is more complex than a simple distinction between old, rotted, and weak vs. young, healthy, and strong. Instead, writes Mary Knudson at Scientific American blogs, trees fall because of their size, their species, and even the history of the human communities around them.
Read the full piece at Scientific American Blogs

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Ten more funny things that you might probably not have seen on the way to the forum

Watch PETA’s Brilliantly Lewd, Bouncingly Phallic New Ad
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
We’re not usually ones for base humour, but a little surrealist veggie-based lewdness never hurt anybody. To celebrate World Vegan Day and promote the er, apparently, very positive ramifications of a vegan diet, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) commissioned Fallon to create this ad full of dudes showing off their extremely phallic vegetables with all manner of gyrating and bouncing.
Yes, it’s totally puerile and absurd, but for our money, pretty darn effective. At least, um, we couldn’t look away.
Click through to watch the video, and let us know what you think in the comments.
[via It's Nice That]
Probably not safe for work but hey, who needs it to be all the time?

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The politics of famine. Mao’s Great Leap Forward caused 36 million people to starve to death. The takeaway? The best foreign policy is calorie-based... more

Queen and Commoner: 1906
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Queen and Commoner: 1906
The Ohio River circa 1906
“Coney Island Co. sidewheeler Island Queen at Cincinnati”
Let her not blind us to the more modest charms of the Guiding Star
8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
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The iPod’s 4,000-lb grandfather
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Ben Marks of Collector’s Weekly says:
We just published an article about orchestrions, which were like player pianos on steroids. Popular in the early 1900s, electric-powered orchestrions were built around a piano or pipe organ and incorporated at least three other instruments, including at least one drum. The big ones were 12 feet wide, 12 feet tall, 5 feet deep, and weighed a couple of tons. The best orchestrions had pipes that were so finely tuned, they could imitate the sound of violins and cellos.
Our article includes numerous quotes from Art Reblitz, who’s a mechanical musical instruments author and restorer.
Here’s a snip: “Some orchestrions had automatic roll changers so you could play a long programme of music without changing rolls yourself,” Reblitz says. “If you didn’t ever have them tuned, they could get pretty bad-sounding, but they were never drunk, like the band was some of the time. You didn’t have to worry if the band was going to show up tonight or not.”
The iPod's 4,000-lb grandfather has lots more information and images of these wonderful machines.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Biology and Buddhism share a view of the nature of reality and the reality of nature. Never mind the aspects of Buddhist tradition that no scientist can believe... more

Why some people [including me] think vinyl sounds better than MP3
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Leo Kent says: “Humans Invent has done an in-depth feature on Vinyl, examining why it sounds so much better than CDs or MP3s.”
The integral difference between vinyl and CD or MP3 is that a vinyl record is an analogue recording – that is, the physical recording is made to vary in correspondence to the variations in air pressure of the original sound. Put simply, the groove that is cut into the vinyl by the cutting lathe mirrors the original sound wave.
Digital sound, meanwhile, is produced by changing the physical properties of the original sound into a sequence of numbers, which can then be stored and read back for reproduction. In practical terms, you’re getting a representation of the sound – the CD taking a snapshot of the analogue signal at a specific rate (44,100 times per second, to be exact).
But what of the fabled ’warmth’ attributed to vinyl? Christoph Grote-Beverborg has processed thousands of records across the electronic spectrum (and far beyond) for labels such as Tresor, Honest Jons and Ostgut Ton:
“In terms of uncompressed digital audio vs vinyl, I can only repeat what has been said before: with digital audio the resolution is more limited than with analogue audio. The same goes for frequency range. But the real thing is what you hear. With vinyl you get a certain kind of saturation and added harmonics that you don’t have with digital. The sound has a body; it’s just more physical.”
I don’t care too about sound quality much, myself. David once told me, “I like the sound of AM radio”, and I agreed with him.
Behind the tech that makes vinyl so special

The Late Movies: Fun with Books
via Stephen’s Lighthouse
A collection of some videos to waste time with today or on the weekend: The Late Movies: Fun with Books from Mental Floss.
  1. The Joy of Books
    Created by Sean Ohlenkamp for Type Books (Toronto, ON)
  2. Bookmans Does Book Dominoes
    Created by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange (Arizona) for Ignite Phoenix 8
  3. Ex Libris
    Created by Garik Seko
  4. Organizing the Bookcase
    Created by Sean Ohlenkamp
  5. Books Shape You
    Created for the New Zealand Book Council
  6. Book Dominoes
    Created by Areaman Productions for Library Ireland Week 2011
  7. The Library Tea Trolley Dance
    Performed by The Tea Set at bMoSo Academy of Song & Dance
  8. The Book Sculptures of Su Blackwell Sculptures
    Created by Su Blackwell 
  9. Knock On Effect World record-attempt book dominoes
    Created by Responsible Fishing UK in Barnsley Library (UK)
  10. Flying Book
    Created by Ogilvy and Digital Magic for Amway’s Flying Book (Thailand) charity project
That is quite enough time wasted looking at all ten videos and then still not choosing one as an example!
Go. Waste. Your. Own. Time.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Politics in the age of Caesar: “Surround yourself with the right people”. “Give people hope”. “Know the weaknesses of your opponents”. Sound familiar?... more

The Duck Doctor and Cartoon Mortality
via Fustar by fústar
Our little one (Willow) has become a hard-core Tom & Jerry addict. One who requires/demands her fix of cat-on-mouse ultra-violence every evening before bed. No complaints from me.
One of her current faves is The Duck Doctor (1952): featuring a cute (but reckless) duckling who Tom wants to shoot and Jerry tries to protect. She seems especially fond of duck-based Tom & Jerry cartoons, and there were quite a few (Just DuckyDownhearted DucklingSouthbound Duckling). All voiced by Red Coffee – a guy who built his modest career on an ability to, um, sound like an adorable baby duck.
Anyway…what separates Duck Doctor from the pack is this: Tom dies at the end. Not, “cartoon dies” (as in, he’s miraculously restored in the next scene), but dies dies. An anvil cracks him on the head, he falls into a grave he’s dug for himself, the anvil becomes his headstone, and the cartoon ends. He’s dead. DEAD! See for yourself.

Of course he was back (none the worse for wear) a month later in the next theatrical short (The Two Mouseketeers), but for that month he was, as far as any traumatised 1950s kid was concerned, dead.
There are a few other T&J ’toons that end without the normal restoration, but I think this is the only one that actually ends with a grave! It’s pretty unsettling (although Willow doesn’t seem remotely bothered by it). Any other examples of traditional ’toons with such terminal conclusions?

The Disturbing Origins of 10 Famous Fairy Tales
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
If you know anything about us, you should know this: we’re suckers for a good story. Luckily, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version*, edited by fabulist extraordinaire Philip Pullman and on shelves today [9 November 2012], is packed with them, complete with smart commentary and playful prose.
While reading, we were struck by how many of our most pervasive stories can be found in the Grimm tales, or even earlier, and also by how much some of the stories have changed along the way – all the blindings and sexual misconduct and death have been mostly scrubbed away. Then again, none of the stories with people getting nailed into barrels and thrown down hills or into ponds have really made it into the mainstream.
Take a look at a few terrifying, gruesome, often bizarre early versions of ubiquitous fairy tales, and maybe you’ll think twice before reading Little Red Riding Hood before you go to bed.
*In keeping with my determination to avoid purchasing from because of their UK tax situation I have given the link to the Book Depository.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Story crafting: strategies for facilitating narrative career counselling

an article by Mary McMahon and Mark Watson (affiliation(s) not provided) published International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance Volume 12 Issue 3 (October 2012)


Narrative career counselling is a growing force in career guidance and counselling that offers a direction for the field to respond to the needs of increasingly diverse client groups.

In this article, we review established and emerging approaches to narrative career counselling, then focus on the emerging story telling approach.

We offer examples of how career counsellors may facilitate narrative career counselling through three levels of story crafting questions, as well as mapping and scaffolding, which are illustrated by a case example.

Neighborhoods on the Rise: A Typology of Neighborhoods Experiencing Socioeconomic Ascent

an article by Ann Owens (Stanford University, USA) published in City & Community Volume 11 Issue 4 (December 2012)


Neighbourhoods are an important source of inequality, and neighbourhood change may lead to changing opportunities for residents. Past research on neighbourhood upgrading tends to focus on one process: gentrification.

I argue that a broader range of types of neighbourhood socio-economic ascent requires examination.

This article documents the different types of neighbourhoods ascending from 1970 to the present.

Using principal components analysis and cluster analysis, I report the prevalence of socio-economic ascent, based on increases in neighbourhood income, rents, house values, and educational and occupational attainment, among five to seven types of neighbourhoods in each decade.

I also examine population and housing changes that co-occur with ascent to identify processes of ascent beyond gentrification.

Overall, findings suggest mixed implications for neighbourhood inequality. While white suburban neighbourhoods make up the bulk of neighbourhoods that ascend in each decade, minority and immigrant neighbourhoods become increasingly likely to ascend over time, though displacement may occur.

Inequalities in use of the Internet for job search: similarities and contrasts by economic status in Great Britain

an article by Anne E Green, Yuxin Li, David Owen and Maria de Hoyos (affiliation(s) not provided but assume Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, UK) published in Environment and Planning A Volume 44 Number 10 (October 2012)


By 2009 four in every five job-seekers in Great Britain were making use of the Internet in job search, generally alongside other methods.

While the Internet has created new opportunities for job seekers, there are concerns that inequalities in use of and access to the Internet will intensify difficulties experienced by disadvantaged groups in finding work.

This paper analyses the incidence and determinants of online job search in Great Britain, using Labour Force Survey data for 2006 to 2009.

Use of the Internet increased over this period, with employed job-seekers most likely to undertake online job search. A probit model reveals that age and highest qualification are key factors affecting individuals’ use of the Internet for job search, with older job seekers and those with lower education levels most likely to ‘lose out’ in terms of accessing employment opportunities via the Internet.

Some significant urban and regional differences are revealed, indicating that job seekers from less prosperous regions and those outside major metropolitan areas are least likely to make use of the Internet for job search.

The rise of the ‘silver surfer’: Online social networking and social inclusion for older adults

an article by Christina Doyle (Australian Department of Human Services) and Sophie Jennifer Goldingay (Deakin University) published on Journal of Social Inclusion Volume 3 Number 2 (2012)


As the proportion of older adults continues to grow in many Western countries, there are increasing concerns about how to meet their needs. Ensuring social connectedness and inclusion is one way to support older adults’ well-being.

Online social networking has become common place amongst younger age groups, suggesting its possible usefulness for older adults, in order to combat isolation and loneliness. Some quantitative studies have already explored the amount and degree of online social networking amongst older adults.

To add further understanding of how older adults experience social inclusion via the internet, the current qualitative study aimed to explore older adults’ subjective experience of online social networking.

Findings demonstrated a number of supports and barriers to social inclusion which reflect barriers to social inclusion of older adults in the non-virtual world. Recommendations to support social inclusion of isolated older adults via online social networking are suggested.

Full text (PDF  15pp)

Can higher employment levels bring down relative income poverty in the EU? Regression-based simulations of the Europe 2020 target

an article by Ive Marx, Pieter Vandenbroucke and Gerlinde Verbist (University of Antwerp, Belgium) published in Journal of European Social Policy Volume 22 Number 5 (December 2012)


At the European level and in most EU member states, higher employment levels are seen as key to better poverty outcomes.

What can we expect the actual impact to be, however?

Up until now shift-share analysis has been used to estimate the impact of rising employment on relative income poverty. This method has serious limitations.

We propose a more sophisticated simulation model that builds on regression-based estimates of employment probabilities and wages. We use this model to estimate the impact on relative income poverty of moving towards the Europe 2020 target of 75 percent of the working-age population in work.

Two sensitivity checks are included:
  • giving priority in job allocation to jobless households and
  • imputing low instead of estimated wages.
This article shows that employment growth does not necessarily result in lower relative poverty shares, a result that is largely consistent with observed outcomes over the past decade.

Indicators of adult information literacy

an article by Ralph Catts (Researcher, Allimar Ltd) published in Journal of Information Literacy Volume 6 Number 2 (2012)


Information literacy, defined as the capacity to locate, evaluate and use information to create new knowledge, is a core adult life skill and an extension of the notion of functional literacy.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has identified information literacy as an essential capacity for participation in the knowledge economy and has included this construct as a strategic priority in the Information for All Programme (IFAP).

To support this initiative UNESCO has commissioned research to consider whether a household survey could be used to identify the extent to which people in member states are information literate in all aspects of their life, including work and lifelong learning, and in relation to their personal well-being, and in their participation in civil society.

United Nations agencies use surveys to provide indications of the extent to which various agreed objectives are being achieved. These include international surveys of education and of health and well-being.

This paper reports on an investigation aimed at determining whether indicators of information literacy could be identified by secondary analysis of existing data collected in other household surveys. It was concluded that information literacy has unique elements that are not encompassed in the surveys that were examined.

Full text (PDF 16pp)

Work, narrative identity and social affiliation

an article by Karen Foster (Saint Mary’s University, Canada) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 6 (December 2012)


Sociologists of work have been drawn into a conversation over work’s significance as a source of identity and social affiliation – ‘needs’ which, according to late modern theorists, are increasingly fulfilled in multiple other realms.

This article enters this exchange by foregrounding the epistemological puzzle of how we can ‘know’ identity and social affiliation in narratives. As a provisional solution, Jenkins’s concepts of identification and categorisation are brought into contact with Marks and Thompson’s emphasis on interests and identities and operationalised through Somers’ concepts of narrative identity, employment and categorisation in an analysis of qualitative interviews with 52 working people and former workers in Canada.

False self-employment: The scandal hitting workers and taxpayers

via ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC

Guest post by Rachel Reeves (Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Member of Parliament for Leeds West) and Chuka Umunna (Shadow Business Secretary and Member of Parliament for Streatham)

Bogus self-employment is a scandal that continues to undermine employment rights and hit taxpayers' pockets. There are too many cases of employees being classed as self-employed when in practice they work for a single company, meaning they can be sacked without warning, do not receive holiday or sick pay, have reduced benefit entitlements and are also denied access to employment tribunals. Often desperately searching for employment, workers are made to sign contracts with payroll companies which sign away their basic rights.

Continue reading

On the fourth day of Christmas

Hazel sent to you…

yet another bunch of the bizarre and the ridiculous stories that she thought might interest you (but just because today is Friday do NOT expect another one this afternoon to start the weekend)!

1938 : ‘Oh Fred! The baby has swallowed the matches!’
via Retronaut by Chris Wild

More images here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Keats was firm about what makes great literature. A poet must dwell in uncertainty, he said, “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”... more

Seals: Graceful underwater, adorably useless on land
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Underwater, Antarctica's Weddell seals are fast-moving, graceful predators, catching and eating as much as 100 pounds of food per day. They dine on squids and fish and have been known to enjoy the occasional penguin or two.
On land, they are hilariously ineffectual blobs of jelly.
You can see that dichotomy in action in this great (and long) video made by Henry Kaiser in Antarctica. Following the adventures of a baby seal on the ice and under the water, the video is peaceful, meditative and reminds me a bit of the sort of old-school Sesame Street video that would build simple, kid-friendly narratives out of nature footage and music. (The music, by the way, was written and performed by Henry Kaiser, as well.)
Despite their poor performance in land-based locomotion, Weddell seals actually live on the ice, descending into the water to hunt and mate and swim around. They use natural holes in the ice to get from above to below and back, but they also work to maintain those holes and often use their teeth to chew at the edge of the ice and make a small hole larger. At about 13 minutes into the video, you can watch a seal doing just that — rubbing its head back and forth to enlarge an opening in the ice.
And why hang out on the ice, to begin with? Simple. In the water, seals are, themselves, potential dinners for larger creatures. On land, they have no natural predators at all and can safely bask in the sun, lying on their cute and chubby bellies for so long that their body heat hollows out divots in the ice.

50 beautiful box sets
via Pages & Proofs by Richard Davies

Above you can see The Golden Hours Library box set from 1967 – this lovely 12-volume set of children’s literature is showcased in our box sets feature [Warning: Bibliophiles will be wanting to collect one or more of these beautiful sets], which also includes sets from Roald Dahl, Bill Watterson, Charles Dickens and Toni Morrison.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Humboldtian science took shape on a trek around South America, where he faced off a jaguar. At that moment, he reported, reason was useless... more

Plastic waste transformed into floating islands to help restore African lake’s ecosystem
via The Red Ferret Journal by Debra Atlas
Plastic waste transformed into floating islands to help restore African lakes ecosystem
Even as more plastic waste accumulates in our oceans, creative minds are devising innovative ways to reuse post-consumer plastic to help our environment. Such is the case of the German REWE Group which plans to create plastic floating islands planted with papyrus, then use them to help rebuild the ecosystem of Africa’s Lake Naivasha.
Continue reading here

The 10 Greatest Historical Literary Cameos on Time-Traveling TV Shows
via Flavorwire by Matthew Bower
Time travel inevitably gets a sizable mention during an old-fashioned game of “Name That TV Trope”. There’s seemingly an endless supply – everything from screwed-up timelines that incorporate fictional elements to the unsettling discovery that you’re your own grandfather (see Futurama). But, bibliophiles that we are, one of our favourite silly pseudo-historical plot devices is when a famous dead author is revived in fictionalised form.
Take a look at some of the most memorable time-travelling literary cameos from our favourite TV shows.
Can you think of more?

William Shakespeare in Blackadder, “Back and Forth”
Shakespeare gets fictionalised often enough. But seldom is he played by Colin Firth, and even more seldom is he vengefully beaten for Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour-long Hamlet adaptation. Though the half-hour “Back and Forth” special was technically a film release, it’s a time-travelling reunion staple of the Blackadder series.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Sure, the French Foreign Legion is about honour, bravery, adventure, endurance. But really, it’s about simplifying men’s lives... more

Marvels, mystery and the chilling world of the Nursery Rhyme – Dianne Hofmeyr
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Dianne Hofmeyr
“Marvels mix with the day-to-day and banality meets mystery in the nursery rhyme” says Marina Warner, short story writer, historian and mythographer, known for her books on feminism and myth.
You need to read this for yourself – some of it is decidedly not nice!

Demon Hill. The Most Dramatic Evidence You’ll Ever See About the Limits of Human Rationality
via Big Think by David Ropeik
So you think you’re pretty smart, huh?
Able to think critically, to reason, to weigh all the evidence and come up with the right answer and know what’s true.
HAH, I say!
Such hubris flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that the brain is only the organ with which we think we think.
Want a really clear bit of evidence that reason and rationality will only carry us so far?
Continue reading

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Season’s Greetings for the unemployment figures

via The Work Founation News by Andrew Sissons

It’s Christmas time – and it turns out that the season has a big effect on today’s labour market statistics, but probably not in the way you expect.

Today’s headline number shows unemployment falling by 82,000 in 3 months, which looks like great news. But it isn’t all it seems. In fact, if you take away the seasonal adjustment factor that the ONS applies to its statistics, unemployment is much higher now than it was earlier this year.

Continue reading to get a useful explanation of seasonally adjusted figures.

With apologies – this got hidden in my drafts folder for some inexplicable reason!

Perceptions of surveillance: Reflexivity and trust in a mediatized world (the case of Sweden)

an article by André Jansson (Karlstad University, Sweden) published in European Journal of Communication volume 27 Number 4 (December 2012)


Even though the field of surveillance studies has expanded during the last decade, there is still a need for studies that empirically explain and contextualise people’s perceptions of the increasingly mediatised ‘surveillance society’.

This article provides a ‘middle range’ social theorisation, following Giddens, as well as an updated empirical account, based on a nationwide Swedish survey, of how various forms of surveillance are perceived as social phenomena.

Through factor analysis three dimensions are elaborated:
  • state surveillance, 
  • commercial surveillance, and
  • mediated interveillance.
The article argues that the realm of interveillance blurs the line between systemic and social trust, and thus calls for context-specific modes of routinised reflexivity.

Whereas such modes of boundary maintenance may potentially run across social lines of division, the results suggest that the management of interveillance primarily constitutes an instance of sociocultural structuration.

Hazel’s comment:
This item is, of course, not even remotley connected to careers information but the blurb about my blog says “with the emphasis on” not “exclusively about”!

Bridging the Digital Divide: Enhancing Empowerment and Social Capital

an article by Diane Marie Charleson (Australian Catholic University) published in Journal of Social Inclusion Volume 3 Number 2 (December 2012)


In the contemporary world, the digital divide constitutes a significant inequality and thus poses a very real problem of social justice – this being particularly the case for those already burdened with disadvantage and marginalisation.

As part of its commitment to Social Justice the Australian Catholic University runs a Catalyst Clemente program.

Catalyst-Clemente provides people experiencing multiple disadvantage with university-level education by means of a program that aims to break the cycle of poverty, inequity and social injustice for less-advantaged and marginalised Australians.

In this paper I will explore the processes and outcomes from a unit that I taught in 2011 as part of this program. The unit was titled Introduction to Media Production, and its focus was New Media and New Media production. I will examine in particular the positive outcomes that emerged from this unit in relation to the empowerment of the individual learners that I observed during the course of the unit.

This was largely a result of their introduction to, and production of, new media and the transformative role this took in helping to bridge their digital divide. On the basis of this experience I will argue therefore that the digital divide can be bridged but this requires not only access to technology by disadvantaged students but more important by an engagement with content creation.

In explaining how this empowerment came about I will also examine the teaching methods and learning partnerships and styles that contributed to this. 

Full text (PDF 14pp)

Working in the other Square Mile: performing and placing sexualized labour in Soho’s sex shops

an article by Melissa Tyler (University of Essex, UK) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 6 (December 2012)


Drawing on an ethnographic study of an empirically neglected sector and setting of employment, namely sales-service work in sex shops located in London’s Soho, this article develops the sociological analysis of sales-service work in two ways.

First, it emphasises the inter-relationship between emotion, aesthetics and sexuality underpinning the performance of sexualised labour, shaping the way in which the latter is enacted and embodied.

Second, it highlights the importance of locating, or placing sexualised labour, teasing out the ways in which it is encoded and embedded in the particular place in which it is performed, a theme that remains under-developed in the study of sales-service work to date.

Higher education governance: a critical mapping of key themes and issues

an article by Ronald G. Sultana (Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Educational Research, University of Malta) published in European Journal of Higher Education Volume 2 Issue 4 (December 2012)


Using the lenses and theoretical frameworks provided by social science, this article highlights some of the central debates concerning higher education governance, within a perspective that privileges the relation between the state and the citizen as mediated by the institution of the university.

The article begins by interrogating the meaning of governance, focusing on demographic, ideological, economic and cultural factors that have an impact not only on the pervasiveness of governance as a focus for research and debate, but also on the way it is defined.

Key trends in – and emerging models as well as instruments of – higher education governance are identified, laying bare some of the local, regional and global forces that are shaping higher education practices. Opting for ‘critical’ over ‘liberal’ models of the university, the article argues for forms of governance that nurture public intellectuals who challenge and disrupt the reproduction of power.

Universities can thus both serve and scrutinize the society they form part of and that supports them, becoming laboratories for democracy that model, in miniature, the kinds of social relations that ought to prevail beyond the confines of the campus.

Long-term unemployment in 2012

a report published by CESI (Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion)

Executive Summary

The release of the first Work Programme performance statistics on 27 November is an opportunity to review how successful the government has been in holding down long-term unemployment.

Long-term unemployment has more than doubled since 2008 and young people have been hit the hardest, with a 145% increase.

Long-term unemployment for those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) has seen the largest increases – for all ages it is up 173% and for young people up 339%. This has been fuelled by claimants being switched to JSA from ‘inactive benefits’ – which have seen decreases in long-term claims.

Women have seen particularly sharp increases – a 173% increase in long-term unemployment, which includes a 289% increase in JSA long-term unemployment.

Being out of work for over a year has a significant impact on people’s confidence, finances and future earning power. Inclusion has argued that governments should focus on: preventing long-term unemployment and on helping those long-term unemployed to maximise their chances of getting and keeping employment.

Preventing long-term unemployment

Jobcentre Plus is the front line in preventing long-term unemployment. It is monitored by an ‘impact indicator’, which measures the number of new claimants that have stopped claiming within 12 months. The latest published figure shows that 87% of new claimants have left before 12 months, but this has worsened since 2010.

In comparison with the 1990s recession, Jobcentre Plus performance is considerably better. In 1991 one in four of all new claimants became long-term unemployed. Now it is one in six.

Performance has varied considerably since the start of the recession in 2008. Last autumn and winter, the speed at which people left JSA fell by between 15% and 25%. This is the same period that covers the first Work Programme performance results. This likely reflects both tough labour market conditions and the impact of significant changes in policy and programmes by the new government. However, since spring this year, off-flows have significantly improved – a sign that subsequent Work Programme results will also improve.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recognises that the wider economy can affect Jobcentre Plus performance: ‘in a recession, even if Jobcentre Plus is performing well, the off-flow rate is likely to fall.’1 However, DWP does not currently recognise this for the Work Programme.

The Work Programme

The weaker than expected economy in 2011 means that DWP’s expectation for Work Programme performance in its first year is unrealistically high. We think a realistic benchmark for Work Programme performance in Year 1 is to reduce DWP’s minimum performance level (MPL) by 15%.
In the invitation to tender (ITT) for the financial year 2011–12 DWP originally set an MPL of 5.5% of all referrals achieving a job outcome in that same year. Because the programme started late, the first full operational year was June 2011 to May 2012 and the equivalent MPL is 6.1%.

However, this was set when the economy was forecast to grow. Instead we have had a double-dip recession. Inclusion has found a strong relationship between changes in gross domestic product and the rate at which unemployed people start jobs. We have used this to adjust the MPL so that it reflects the reality of the last year.

Our expectation is that tomorrow’s published results will be around 15% lower than planned – if they are above then contractors would have done well despite the recession. If they are below this, it will be an indication there have been deeper problems in the first year of the Work Programme.

Fewer job outcomes will mean lower spending per participant, and lower payments to contractors. There is a danger of a downward spiral of lower performance leading to lower spending, leading to even lower performance. Tightening finances will also increase the risk of ‘parking’ the most disadvantaged participants and will increase the financial pressures on specialist providers, such as voluntary organisations.

The first results are not likely to give a definitive answer about whether the Work Programme is on track or needs fixing. But they will likely illustrate that ‘payment by results’ can lead to lower spending when the jobs market gets weaker – and that contractors alone should not be blamed if performance expectations don’t respond to the ‘rough waters’2 of the economy.

1 See: 
2 Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, on economic prospects, August 2012

Full text (PDF 45pp)

Struggling to make ends meet: Single parents and income adequacy under universal credit

a paper by Donald Hirsch (Director, Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University) published by Gingerbread


From 2013, universal credit will start replacing the present benefits and tax credit system as the main financial support for families on low incomes. Single parent families are highly dependent on such support to make ends meet, whether they are in or out of work. To what extent will the new system meet their needs?

The new system has a number of features that could potentially help single parents. It will be simpler overall than the present system, reducing the confusing array of entitlements and forms to fill in. It will offer new opportunities to improve family income through part time work, allowing single parents to keep some or all of their out of work entitlements when they work a few hours a week. And it will reduce some of the most severe barriers to improving family income, in particular the most extreme situations where families can currently lose over 90 per cent of additional earnings through a reduction in benefits combined with higher income tax bills.

However, ultimately the extent to which the system helps single parent families lift themselves out of poverty and achieve an adequate standard of living will depend on the level at which entitlements are set. In the past two years, there have already been significant cuts to both benefits and tax credits, and many of these will be carried over into universal credit. The system is coming in when, like many people in Britain, single parents are generally seeing living costs rise at a faster rate than earnings (or state entitlements). The combination of these factors makes it inevitable that, even with the help of universal credit, many families will struggle to make ends meet.

This paper gives an initial snapshot of how provisional universal credit entitlements (announced as illustrative figures for 2012/13, the year before its introduction) compare to families’ needs. In particular we seek to illustrate the impact of universal credit on:
  1. Work as a route out of poverty and towards an adequate income level – will it support working single parents to lift their families above the poverty line, and will it support them to reach an adequate level of income for their needs?
  2. Work incentives – will it make a single parent better off in work than not, and will it be worthwhile to work additional hours?
Given that we do not yet know the exact level at which the credit will be set, it cannot project the precise outcomes of the system. Rather, it sets the scene for monitoring the adequacy of universal credit by doing three things:
  • Looking at a general level at the ability of single parents with various hours of work and wages to escape poverty and reach a minimum acceptable income level
  • Considering which factors will most affect the adequacy of universal credit. It makes comparisons between single parents with more or less expensive housing and childcare, and different numbers and ages of children
  • Considering the effectiveness of different policy measures in improving the situation of single parents under universal credit, to help understand what future improvements could best produce stronger work incentives – and therefore a more adequate living standard – for single parents and their children.
Full text (PDF 18pp)

Welfare regimes and welfare state outcomes in Europe

an article by Andreas Kammer (University of Cologne, Germany), Judith Niehues (Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), Germany) and Andreas Peichl (Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Germany) published in Journal of European Social Policy Volume 22 Number 5 (December 2012)


Welfare state typologies are generally based on the institutional design of welfare policies.

In this paper we analyse whether such typologies also persist when they are applied to effective redistributive outcomes of welfare states’ tax and transfer policies.

In contrast to the widespread use of macro indicators, our empirical analysis relies on internationally comparable microdata in order to account for the distribution of resources across households. We perform a hierarchical cluster analysis and check whether the classical typology for Western European welfare states reproduces the typical patterns when it comes to effective economic outcomes.

We find that the established welfare regimes not only differ in their welfare state institutions as is known, but also in their economic outcomes. In particular, we identify the social-democratic, conservative, liberal and southern welfare regimes. Belgium and the Netherlands emerge as hybrid cases lying between the social-democratic and conservative model.

A Comparison of Effects on Capabilities in Transitions to the Labour Market

Final Report on the WorkAble EU Collaborative Project (2009-2012)

Introduction by Enrica Chiappero Martinetti

This final report presents the findings of Work Package 5 (WP5) of the EU collaborative research project “Making Capabilities Work” (WorkAble).

The overall aim of WorkAble is to provide knowledge on how to enable young people to act as capable citizens in the labour markets of European knowledge societies, and to assess political and institutional strategies aimed at countering high rates of youth unemployment, early school leaving and dropping out from upper secondary education.

The project’s three main objectives are first, to expand the capabilities of young people to act as fully participating citizens in emerging European knowledge societies; second, to promote skills and competencies in young people that are conducive to improving the economic productivity and competitiveness of Europe; and third, to develop transversal strategies that integrate central economic, educational and social issues, in order to close the capability gap in the young and particularly the inadequacies between education and training and the requisites of the knowledge society to which they, and, above all, the more disadvantaged are exposed.

Using EU-SILC longitudinal data as well as in-depth analyses of specific countries and comparative analyses of pairs of countries, the aim of WP5 (“Effects on transitional trajectories of young people”) is to identify and understand the transitions that young Europeans make from the educational system to the labour market, and to assess whether educational strategies contribute to expanding their capabilities for work and social participation. Special attention is given to analysing the degree to which comparable educational attainments among young people lead to different labour market opportunities, depending on the configuration of labour market and educational regimes. WP5 also examines the relationship between education, transitional trajectories and individual well-being and social exclusion, and how this relationship varies between different EU member states.

The present final report contains two main sections. The first section consists of brief synopses for each of the seven papers produced by the researchers participating in WP5. Each synopsis includes the title of the paper in question, the main research question that it poses, the data and methodology utilized, and the main findings. The second section consists of the Annexes, which contain the seven papers in full.

Full text (PDF 263pp)

More miscellaneous stuff for you today!

Kior ‘Biocrude’ Plant a Step toward Advanced Biofuels
A Kior plant in Mississippi will start shipping fuel made from wood chips as planned as it chases large-scale production.
Full story here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Oliver Sacks: place-blind, face-blind, nearly blind blind, prone to hallucinations. But the doctor is more than the sum of his disorders...more

c.1910s: Beatrix Potter and her rabbits
via Retronaut by Chris Wild

A rabbit.
On a lead.
Now I have seen everything.
There’s another picture here

The convergence of biological and computer viruses
via on TechRepublic by Michael Kassner
The difference between a biological virus and a computer virus is blurring.
Learn how a researcher infected himself with a computer virus.
Full story here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Once upon a time, fairy tales raised social consciousness. Then their revolutionary soul was subverted, commodified, extinguished. Blame Disney...more

Mommy and Daddy fairy-wrens sing “food passwords” to teach their eggs to sing
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
“Superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) mothers sing to their unhatched eggs to teach the embryo inside a 'password' – a single unique note – which the nestlings must later incorporate into their begging calls if they want to get fed.”
Zoë Corbyn in Scientific American, on a very unusual example of avian communication.

Cotton at the Levee: 1910
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Cotton at the Levee: 1910
Vicksburg, Mississippi, circa 1910
“Unloading cotton at the levee’
Sternwheel packet boat Mary Miller on the right
8x10 glass negative
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Totalitarianism: The term originated in Italy; the system was perfected in Eastern Europe. It wasn’t about efficiency, it was about remaking man for the future... more

The Evolution of Computer Keyboards
via How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick
IBM Model M keyboard
Decades after its introduction in the mid-’80s, IBM’s classic Model M remains a favourite for keyboard purists
Credit: BorgHunter.
While the basic shape of keyboards has remained largely unchanged over the last thirty years, the guts have undergone several transformations.
ComputerWorld delves into the history of the modern keyboard, including the heavy influence IBM’s extensive keyboard research on early keyboards.

This Computer Slices, Dices, and Does it ‘All
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel

Sit back and enjoy [or cringe at] this entertaining retro computer ad as Rich DuLaney from the OS/2 Multimedia Presentation Manager/2 team jumps into “super salesman mode” to sell you the Ultimedia M57SLC computer for only $3,395!
It slices, It dices [via MUO]

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

10 more miscellaneous "things" for you

Frank E. Kirby: 1910
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Frank E. Kirby: 1910
Toledo, Ohio, circa 1910
“Sidewheeler Frank E. Kirby at steamer landing”
8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What’s so appealing about an asexual, aloof character like Sherlock Holmes? It’s that Conan Doyle created a superhero, not a superhuman... more

Tesla Coil Fights Combines Electricity and Choreography
via How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick

We’ve seen quite a few Tesla-coil tricks over the years but never choreographed fighting between two guys balanced on Tesla coils.
This definitely falls deeply into the don’t try this at home category – two guys in special suits are standing atop Tesla coils and directing the blasts of electricity at each other in a type of stylised combat. While their suits are clearly acting as Faraday cages to protect them from the electricity, we prefer our Faraday cages to be beefier and not attached directly to our skin.
[via Obvious Winner]

Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Tim O’Reilly tweeted about this proposal to deflect pesky asteroids on a collision course with earth. I’m reading The Last Policeman so this is even more interesting to me than usual.
In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you’d better hope that it’s blindingly white. A brightly colored asteroid would reflect sunlight – and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course.
How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to an MIT graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs.
Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid [contains detail of the hypothesis]

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Tolstoy preached Tolstoyism, but there was no “Chekhovism”. Chekhov’s genius wasn’t for big ideas, but petty concerns – a small lie, filthy latrines, a slovenly manner... more

Raspberry Pi Powered Coffee Table Serves Up Arcade Classics
via How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick
If your living room is boring for want of a plethora of arcade hits, this DIY project parks a Raspberry Pi powered arcade machine in a coffee table for at-your-finger-tips retro gaming.
Courtesy of tinker Graham Gelding, this build combines a 24-inch monitor, arcade buttons, a Raspberry Pi board, and a wooden coffee table to great effect.
The end result is a table-top style arcade that also doubles, courtesy of a wireless keyboard and mouse, as a web browsing and email station.

Hit up the link below for more information.
Coffee Table Pi [via Hack A Day]

150 great things about the London Underground: an unofficial birthday salute to a public transport titan
No 48: The “houses” in Leinster Gardens
The trains that first ran along the railway line that passes below Leinster Gardens were steam-powered. The locomotives needed somewhere to vent the fumes that built up inside the engines. But where to do this, in a neighbourhood jostling with upmarket residences for whom a large gap in the ground would appear both unsightly and undignified?
The answer, as with most tricks of the eye, can be found round the back.
From an age where engineering solutions could be figured out with a bit of front.
Fantastic blog. Check it out here.
And I found it on Guardian Technical

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Secret history of Monopoly. Known variously as Auction and Finance, the board game may have been invented as a paean to socialism... more

The Hobbit trilogy effect: More kids’ books that should be made into three movies
via TechRepublic
Ken Hardin offers a tongue-and-cheek look at three classic children’s books that Peter Jackson or a like-minded film maker could make into three movies.
Now I could, of course leave it there but no, I will tell you which three books and then you can go to the TechRepublic blog to find out why.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis
The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary

How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence
Ferris Jabr in Scientific American via 3quarksdaily by S. Abbas Raza
Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behaviour.